There are few phrases that strike fear into the hearts of anime fans more than “live-action Netflix adaptation”, especially with regard to beloved properties like Cowboy Bebop. Between the cringeworthy Death Note adaptation a few years ago and all the chaos that seems to be surrounding the Avatar: The Last Airbender production — which supposedly got so bad it caused the original creators to part ways with it — there have been far more misses from the platform than hits.
With such a shady track record, fans of the original anime are justified in their skepticism towards the live-action Cowboy Bebop adaptation that has been announced. Production has been delayed due to injuries on set and, of course, the ever-present pandemic — but details, aside from the cast, are fairly sparse so far. Still, this is one adaptation that I could see working.
Why do I have faith that Cowboy Bebop will succeed where so many other adaptations have failed? I am glad you asked, because I have Thoughts on the matter. (Nurse! Fetch the mop! – Ed.)
Cowboy Bebop was all about style
At the heart of it, Cowboy Bebop was always as much about style as it was the plot or the action. From the first moments that Tank starts playing over the opening credits to the space noir feel and the incredible character designs, the show benefited from a strong sense of style and substance. And, fortunately for the Netflix adaptation, its style was one grounded in reality.
There aren’t any invisible shinigami with Willem Dafoe’s terrifying face floating in the background awkwardly, nor any flying bison to CGI into existence. Cowboy Bebop is a show about people just trying to make their way through the unfeeling vacuum of space, and occasionally dealing with the unholy creatures that have grown from forgotten leftovers in the fridge. The character designs are cartoonish at points but when compared with similar shows like Trigun, they are realistic enough to translate into live action.
Yoko Kanno is back
Last month, the production team announced that Yoko Kanno would be returning to provide music composition duties for the live action Cowboy Bebop treatment — and I have never heard a group of nerds let out a louder sigh of relief. Kanno’s score for the original anime was key to giving the show a jazzy, noir tone, even as characters flew around in spaceships and turned eco-terrorists into monkeys.
Music was always at the heart of Cowboy Bebop, so Yoko Kanno giving the new show her expert touch will help ensure that it shares the same DNA as the original. That isn’t to say that they shouldn’t do something different and take risks with the new adaptation. They absolutely should make it different from the original; otherwise, what’s the point of remaking it in the first place? But the music can help make sure that it still feels like our old, familiar Cowboy Bebop — even if it looks completely different.
It is just better than most anime
There is a reason why Cowboy Bebop is continually celebrated as one of the best anime to ever make its way to Western shores. It is simply that good. Starting with a good source material is the first step to creating a solid live-action adaptation and the crew couldn’t ask for a better source material than Bebop.
There is a lot of work that will go into making Spike effortlessly cool and Faye tough but loveable, but they are tropes that are familiar to Western audiences. These are character archetypes that we’ve seen before in the likes of John Wick and The Matrix, so they can spend less time making us understand who we are dealing with and more time just getting on with the story.
Will the Cowboy Bebop live-action adaptation be good? We won’t know until we see it, but at least it has the basis for having a reasonable chance at success already. Plus, Ein is already freaking adorable.
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